129 If I Was Your Girl

ifiwasyourgirlby Meredith Russo, 2016

I kind of hate fairy tales. Not the Brothers Grimm sort, which are actually quite gruesome and only vaguely resemble the stories we were told as kids, and not even really the Disney sort, because I can’t lie that, as much as it rankles my inner feminist, I still enjoyed Beauty and the Beast. No, I mean those stories where someone with a “problem” – they have a string of failed relationships, they are clumsy, they (gasp!) have curly hair and glasses – overcomes said “problem” to live happily ever after. I realize there is some comfort in knowing that we are all lovable despite our differences, but this sort of trite plot and predictable ending are far from new and far from interesting.

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126 The Hate U Give

hateugiveby Angie Thomas, 2017

Starr Carter is sixteen years old when she witnesses the police shooting of her friend Khalil. Pulled over for a seemingly routine traffic violation, things quickly go south when Khalil demands to know why he was stopped, is frisked, and returns to the car to ask Starr if she’s okay. There appeared to be a gun in the car, they say of the hairbrush sticking out of a pocket in the door. He was dealing drugs, they say with no evidence of such in the car. One more gangbanger out of the way, they say, while knowing nothing about Khalil and the life he led. It’s a sad day when a book like this is necessary and, yet, here we are, and this book is so very necessary.

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113 Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

aristotledanteby Benjamin Alire Sáenz, 2012

There is always the risk when reading immensely popular books of your expectations exceeding the book’s reality. I was prepared for this to be the case when I finally got around to Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, a much lauded book online and on BookTube for its depiction of a relationship between two teenage boys. Young adult novels positively depicting gay relationships are still something of a novelty, so we’re in a place where most books that do this, regardless of the quality of the writing, get a pass simply because they address a subject that is marginalized and, in some cultures, taboo. In some ways I believe Aristotle and Dante is getting that pass, but I was pleased to find that, in other ways, it is wholly deserving of the attention it has received.

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87 A Monster Calls

amonstercallsby Patrick Ness, 2011

First, let me just say, do not read this book in public. I wish someone had given me that warning before I decided to read/listen to this during my Amtrak ride over Christmas, where I was failing miserably at not openly weeping as the story came to its close. Second, I will say that you will probably benefit from not knowing too much about the story going in, as I did not and I feel my ignorance made it just that much more affecting. Read reviews sparingly. Third, I scooped up the audio version as one of Audible’s Daily Deals and I honestly don’t know if I would have wept quite so much had I read it without the stellar performance of Jason Isaacs (aka Lucius Malfoy). I highly recommend it.

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85 The Wrath and the Dawn

wrathandthedawnby Renee Ahdieh, 2015

Let’s talk about abusive relationships. If someone threatens your safety or treats you poorly, it doesn’t matter what happened in their past. It doesn’t matter if they have an explanation for why they behave the way they do. It doesn’t matter if they, in fact, hate themselves for their behavior. It doesn’t even matter if you find you are attracted to them. You do not have an obligation to be with them.

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81 The Raven Boys

ravenboysby Maggie Steifvater, 2012

In the midst of this shitstorm we call politics, I find myself at a point where I want to bury my head and escape in books. I have tons of heavy hitters on my to-be-read list that I really want to get to, but I know that I just can’t face reading about some of society’s more troublesome ills right now. Soon, but not yet. Given that, I’ve taken advantage of my reading mood to check out some of the more popular YA books that are so ubiquitous on book blogs and BookTube. Fluffy escapism is what I want and, in The Raven Boys, fluffy escapism is what I got.

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79 Scarlet

scarletby Marissa Meyer, 2013

If you’ll recall, I wasn’t terribly impressed when I last left The Lunar Chronicles. Sure, I liked Cinder well enough, but I failed to see what everyone was raving about and found it a tad boring and predictable. I’m happy to say that, although it suffers from problems of its own, Scarlet is a much better imagined and realized retelling of a classic fairy tale.

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